June 13: Towering Laze, Big Hole in the Ground

Today’s eruption summary:

Lower East Rift Zone: Fissure 8 continues to build its oblong cinder and spatter cone. Overnight fountain heights were 130-140 ft, up to 53m (174ft) by the afternoon. Fissures 16 and 18 continue weak activity.

USGS: “Fissure 8 fountains to heights of 130-140 ft. The lava spatter chills and the fragments are building a cone on the downwind side, now nearly as tall as the fountain itself.” (Full-sized)

Fissure 8’s lava flow had a “towering” steam plume at its ocean entry point this morning. Areas of offshore upwelling have become more dispersed.

6AM overflight of Kapoho, “towering” laze plume at ocean entry of Fissure 8 lava flow. (Full-sized)

The daily summit explosion was at 3:39am, equivalent to M5.4 earthquake, with an ash plume 7-8K feet (NWS radar has been repaired). Slumping and subsidence continue at Halema’uma’u, and SO2 emissions remain about half pre-event levels.

Before and After: Changes at Halema’uma’u

Here’s a good view of Halema’uma’u taken at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, April 19, 2018 by Christoph Strässler (Creative Commons):

Gorgeous photo of Halema’uma’u Crater and its lava lake, April 19, 2018 by Christoph Strässler (Creative Commons). See his photo album for more images from this visit.

Compare with this animation from HVO webcam June 1-10, or the new drone footage later in this post.

USGS: “A series of wide-angle webcam images, captured by a camera in HVO’s observation tower between June 1 and June 10, 2018, show ongoing subsidence around Halema‘uma‘u at the summit of Kīlauea in this animated GIF.” (Full-sized)

Today’s Kilauea news daily digest is full of science, science, science! the usual slew of incredible pictures. Also, some glimmers of hope for lava evacuees, although as usual bureaucracy moves at the speed of of dirt.

USGS Daily 1.5 minute Briefing

Jessica Ball, USGS (Transcript)

She answers a question a lot of people have been asking about color of laze plume.

USGS: “Map as of 10:00 a.m. HST, June 13, 2018. Given the dynamic nature of Kīlauea’s lower East Rift Zone eruption, with changing vent locations, fissures starting and stopping, and varying rates of lava effusion, map details shown here are accurate as of the date/time noted. Shaded purple areas indicate lava flows erupted in 1840, 1955, 1960, and 2014-2015.” (Full-sized)
USGS at Puna Community Meeting June 12

Video of meeting archived here: USGS Steve Brantley starts his presentation at timestamp 42:10, with slide of summit of Kilauea down to East Rift Zine.

Cutaway Diagram of Kilauea Volcano, adapted from USGS Characteristics of Hawaiian Volcanoes. (I’ve adjusted text and drawn arrow to match Steve Brantley’s slide in his presentations.)

Big picture: Magma started moving down from summit reservoir into LERZ Apr 30, started to erupt in Puna May 3, continues to erupt. In early May, summit began to deflate & subside, as consequence of magma moving out of reservoir.

Fissure 8 continues to erupt; fountains have changed in height [I think height is governed by gas pressure?] but no real change in amount of lava coming out. Built up cone over 100 feet tall.  [Next slide]:

USGS “Fissure 8 fountains reached heights up to 160 feet overnight. Lava fragments falling from the fountains are building a cinder-and-spatter cone around the vent, with the highest part of the cone (about 125 feet high) on the downwind side. USGS image taken June 12, 2018 around 6:10 a.m. HST.” Full-sized)

Channel (lower slope of cone, center of above photo) about 300 ft wide. One of concerns is overflow, failure of levee along side of channel. But in past week, lava channel has been very stable. Spillovers “just dribble over the side” and solidify, “maybe help to raise perched channel a little bit higher.”  Channel now about 20-30 feet above old ground surface.

Continues to flow from F8 to ocean, about 8 miles. Entry about 1.25 miles wide, 250 acres new land, but it changes day to day: new land built, but bits slide into ocean. Very dynamic situation.

USGS: “Events at the summit of Kīlauea over the past few weeks have dramatically reshaped Halema‘uma‘u, shown here in this aerial view, which looks west across the crater…” (Full-sized)

Summit: Over 3000 earthquakes at summit in past week. Most mag 1, largest are upper 4s or 5 range. Larger events within area of Halema’uma’u. Slide: Northern wall of Halema’uma’u is starting to slide into Halema’uma’u crater.

Aerial view of Halema’uma’u (above). Points out parking lot at left. That’s south side, starting to slip into as well, as magma withdraws from below.

Presentation’s last slide is a chart of similar events at Kilauea during past 200 years. Current enlargement of Halema’uma’u is on same scale as in 1924. There have been larger events in history of volcano, early 1800s, when Halema’uma’u was active and whole caldera was much deeper. When westerners arrived about 1823/4, caldera was about 1700 feet deep. Right now, only 500ft. “Change is the name of the game.”

Civil Defense / Other Officials

Civil Defense alerts not much change: 6AM | 12:30PM

Mayor Harry Kim Tweeted: “Eruption Update June 13 at 1200. NWS reports light winds will bring vog inland & south, wrapping around the Kona area. Heavy vog conditions expected to remain until early next week. Limit outside activities if you have breathing issues.”  He also tweeted about “Animal Rescue Planning Task Force Formed”

USGS Q&A On Social Media

USGS Volcano Observatory scientists have shared great info while answering questions on social media. I’m trying to summarize/consolidate some of these. (The questions are a fascinating glimpse into human psychology: some people seem almost dissatisfied with what the eruption’s actually doing and keep pressing the USGS to tell them it might do something far worse.)

Standing waves in Fissure 8 lava flow. USGS: “They seem to come and go depending on what’s happening with those large blocks dividing the flow.” (Full-sized)

Stats and figures

USGS: “Fissure 8 lava fountains continue to reach heights of 40-45 m (130-150 ft) from within the growing cone of cinder and spatter, which is now about 40 m (130 ft) at its highest point. Fountaining at fissure 8 continues to feed the fast-moving channelized flow that is entering the ocean at Kapoho.” (Full-sized)
Ongoing Lava Activity / Duration

Q: Eruption seems to have stabilized? What’s likelihood of new fissures or activity increase?  A: Still a possibility. LERZ fissure eruptions typically weeks to months, but don’t know how much longer this one will last.

Q: What factors influence duration? Is forecast possible? A: “Some controls include the amount of magma available in the fissure system, the availability of a clear path to the surface, and the gas available to drive the magma out of the system. We can’t determine all of these from the surface, so we can’t forecast time or intensity.”

Q: Does height of fountain indicate lava pressure? (Names past examples) A: “It is related to the gas available in the magma and the pressure of magma in the rift system, yes, but we haven’t quantified the relationship yet. It’s true, we haven’t seen the very tall fountains of or .”

Q: “Is golden reticulite being produced in this eruption?” A: “Technically this tephra is still pumice. Our last measurement of the vesicularity (around June 7) measured it at 92-93%. Reticulite has to be 96%+ vesiculated, and has a lighter color and thinner bubble walls than what we’re seeing come out of fissure 8.”

(People kept calling that stuff reticulite, and I kept thinking, “No, no, this is reticulite!” It’s getting close, though. “Vesicles” are air pockets, bubbles; reticulite is solidified lava froth.)

Q: Are levees made of lava? A: “Yes, the levees are made from lava that splashes up out of the channel and cools. As it piles up, it makes the walls of the channel higher. We call it a levee because it raises the channel above the ground surface.”

Q: How close can one approach flow with protective gear?  A: “The area is closed to those who are not residents or actively involved in the eruption response. When preforming measurements of the channel, we use caution crossing old/cold flows b/c ground is very unstable & could overflow. Then, 50m+ from margin.”

Q: How does water change when lava hits it? Is that measured and how? A: Water becomes hotter and more acidic. “It is dangerous, which is why we don’t measure it directly.”

Q: How much does ocean entry lava flow contribute to sea level rise? A: “Ocean entry lava adds pretty much zero to sea level rise. The oceans are huge – the lava volume, not so much.”

USGS: “View of the ocean entry and the resulting laze plume where lava is entering the sea. As of June 12, lava entering the ocean had added about 100 ha (250 acres) of new land to the Island of Hawai‘i.” (Full-sized)
(USGS: “Closer view of new land in the Kapoho area. The new coastline, following the ragged lava-ocean interface, is approximately 2.1 km (1.3 mi) in length. The white steam/laze plume marks the location of the most active lava entry site during the morning overflight.” (Full-sized)
Summit Subsidence & Explosions

Q: Why less damage in 1924, with ~4m subsidence [of whole caldera/summit, I think]. Now only ~1.5 deflation, but “drastic changes.” A: current summit explosions have lasted longer than 2.5 weeks in 1924. Possible more magma from summit has moved down into East Rift Zone than back then.

Q: Increasing peaks something to worry about?  A: “That is an interesting trend, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re going to get larger explosions. It is an indication that more energy is being released through earthquakes. In fact, the explosions have been getting smaller and more ash-poor as time goes on.”

Q People keep asking if it’s building up to a much bigger eruption. USGS keeps responding with variants of, “That is one possibility, although it will not be as large or violent as a stratovolcano eruption – doesn’t behave like that. It’s also possible that the rubble could block up the conduit and shut off the explosions completely (though not necessarily the earthquakes).”

Q: Wasn’t there supposed to be a big explosion when lava pool subsided to groundwater level? A: “That occurred in mid-May, and we did see that some explosions occurred as a result of that interaction. Initially, explosions from were a bit larger (plumes up to 30,000 feet). However, is not the type of volcano to have a “climactic” explosive eruption.”

Q: Can steaming cracks around Halema’uma’u Crater become fissures? A: Fissuring requires magma, and tends to happen in Kilauea’s East Rift Zone. Summit cracks are steaming from groundwater penetrating still-hot rocks.

Q: What does [Halema’uma’u Crater] wall sinking indicate? Pressure dropping inside volcano? A: Withdrawal of magma from summit lava lake and conduit, allowing overlying material to collapse inward.

Rumor/Conspiracy Theory whack-a-mole

There’s been a lot of fear caused by a hoaxster (also known for convincing gullible people of a supposed 2015 volcanic eruption near Flagstaff, Arizona which turned out to be a forest fire and controlled burn). His latest conspiracy theory claims scientists are “hiding” earthquakes.  USGS have explained again and again and again that automated computer software and instruments aren’t 100% perfect in identifying and interpreting seismic signals, and have to be checked/verified/corrected by seismologists. They’ve also pointed to old FAQs on the USGS earthquake page the hoaxster is ranting about; these actually answer his questions:

From other scientists
Olivine sand from Hawaii Island
Olivine sand on Papakolea Beach in 2011, Simm Sepp, CC
From Local Hawaiian News Outlets

#LeilaniEstatesEruption #KilaueaVolcano UPDATE (June 13 at 4 PM): In the foreground of this picture are the #LeilaniEstates homes that have been spared… but underneath #Fissure8 and the unbelievable amount of lava it has produced over the last several weeks are many houses that have been claimed. Hawaiʻi Governor David Ige signed a request today asking the federal government to provide individual assistance to hundreds of Hawaiʻi Island residents whose homes are now gone. FEMA officials say that assessments are underway to see if the ongoing disaster meets the criteria needed for that assistance. The Governor hopes for approval to access six grant programs some of the grants authorize and approve temporary housing, offer relocation assistance and some help busiensses that have been impacted by the eruption. The request from Governor Ige comes as lava continues to spew from the ground in lower Puna, nearly six weeks after eruptions started. So far, more than 112 million cubic meters of lava have erupted from 24 fissures that opened up along a 3.8-mile line that cuts through Leilani Estates, ground zero for the ongoing eruptions. The U.S. Geological Survey Survey said Wednesday that fissure no. 8 — the only remaining active outbreak — is pumping out as much as 26,000 gallons per second, or enough to fill 12 commercial dump trucks per second. It continues to create a channelized lava flow that's emptying into the sea off Kapoho. Geologists estimate that at least 270 acres of new land have now been formed. Hawai’i Island Mayor Harry Kim has said lava has claimed as many as 700 homes, taking out whole communities. The official number of homes claimed is 455, some 192 of which are primary residences, the governor's office said. Stay tuned to @HawaiiNewsNow for the very latest developments #HInews #HawaiiNews #HNN #HawaiiNewsNow #WeAreYourSource (Photo taken by @malikadudley on Monday)

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Social Media Roundup

False color composite of infrared and visual data:

Here’s the original IR image and a color-corrected image to show what it would look like to human eye.

Yet more green stuff brought up from the mantle in basalt: